My Dear Friend:
You wrote of a growing strain on your spirit that seems to have no reasonable source, as your position is unobjectionable, your master provides you accommodations enough, and your annual fundraising goal numbers not unduly burdensome. What then?
You ask if you are perhaps “a loser.” I think not.
During my youth, my father — a fundraising titan who fought for funding alongside Major Donor — became disgusted with my inadequate Girl Scout cookie sales and sent me away to a notorious fundraising academy, one of the very strictest of the Transactional schools.
I was miserable and branded a failure — a loser — at “working the room,” and “friend-raising,” and so on, until I was confined to the barracks for insubordination after I refused to ply my trade at a memorial service, trading donations for signatures in the guest book.
But then I took a History of Fundraising in Western Civilization class. I learned about the Philanthropeon Wars.
I learned about the lost city-state of Telethonika, where disability democracy had been born around the year 504 BC. It is a loss that echoes down through millennia through some fundraisers who have the disability consciousness and who feel the shadow each year as Labor Day approaches. You may be feeling the echo of the fall of Telethonika, that flattish plain located one mountain over from Sparta.
We all know the Spartans famously exposed their own sickly or disabled, or otherwise unwanted, infants on mountainsides. A significant number of Telethonika’s citizens were survivors of a chilly infancy, you might say.
Telethonikans did not discard any of their children, disabled or otherwise. Their most famous aphorism was, in fact, “Waste not, want not.”
Telethonika was also the home of choice for a number of Lesbians, particularly those unable to traverse the stony ridges of Lesbos. They brought with them a passion for kollektiva, or communal endeavors where credit remains unnamed, whether it be for a meal or a victory in battle.
It is believed that adherence to this principle was a reaction to the era’s practice of ae ar sei, which had two meanings, depending on contex: either, “to create a mythic figure, often male,” or “naming opportunities.”
On Telethonika’s other side was a city-state called Hathos, that thriving center of philanthropic trafficking.
Telethonika faced pressures from both neighbors: Sparta would have been jazzed to see all disabled Telethonikans dead and Pander of Hathos kept pushing for their neighbor’s disabled children to be conscripted into the philanthropic trade.
But Telethonika did flourish once, however briefly, and that was when its troubles really began. It attracted the attention of Jerrae, a Mawkish pretender to the Komik throne, who had bombed so badly in Hathos after boasting that he killed entire audiences, including Caesar’s, that he fled to Telethonika.
As part of their kollektiva culture, all of Telethonika put on an annual three-day comedy festival that attracted audiences from as far away as Athens. The revenue generated each year was shared by all.
History does not record the details of why Jerrae was denied a place in the stage-line up but a fragment attributed to Ingratika, an obscure disabled fundraiser from Sardonica, holds a clue.
Her single word, etched on a scrap of what may have been a festival poster, reads only, “KRIPSPLAIN?!” indicating Jerrae insulted the Telethonika festival organizers by explaining disability to them.
Whatever else happened, we know Jerrae was in the audience for the debut of a farce titled The Telethon that mocked Sparta’s attempt to tax Telethonikans as “Spartans by birth.”
A parade of disabled adults each appeared in baby clothes and sang some sort of filthy ditty about Spartan dicks and their “opportunities.” These “peter singers” tallied each of their disabled “child’s” names on a big board.
At the end of the play, “Telethonika” took the tally from the big board and presented it as “check” on Sparta’s power over their people.
Jerrae, unseen after the play, reappeared shortly thereafter, walking alone and bearing a Spartan message.
Sparta, in the kind of mood one expects after a regimen of running naked in the snow, said that all of the Telethonikan children were to be thrown into the Aegean within three days. Or pay a hefty tribute for each child. Not a pledge. A payment.
Jerrae — impervious to shame — sniffed out a funding opportunity in this and made a secret alliance with the Hathonians to betray the Telethonikans.
Jerrae told desperate Telethonika that Hathos would pay the tribute in exchange for the most appealing of their disabled children to use in the philanthropic trade.
The treachery he concealed was the plan to deliver the other disabled children to Sparta for “fiscal prudence.” Jerrae would then headline a three-day “telethon” where he was hailed as the hero of disabled children.
Telethonika may have been desperate but they were prepared to all jump into the Aegean together rather than give their children away to certain death or Jerrae.
Which is what they did, right after they slaughtered a herd of the sacred Hathos goats and left them in downtown Hathos adorned with a sign reading, “This is what happens to Jerrae’s kids.”
I am currently touring the famed Pastrami Caves with my kind host here at Hoff Uhreuben in the Kohlslaw region of Alsace known as Toste d’Rye. Gathering my strength for our upcoming event, I struggle with my own ennui, which I will write more of in my next letter. The paradoxical nature of high-cost tickets to benefit low-income communities has long troubled me and I have found solace in The Meditations of Ingratika the Fundraiser‘s, “Affordability is an access issue.”
Know in your heart you’ve given me much to reflect upon in this most satisfying of places where the Swiss, once sandwiched between the Germans and the Russians, somehow melded these warring forces into fleeting harmony. I look forward to sharing more about the twilight of the Philanthropeon Wars, when the northern Freigift leader, Totebag the Beneficial, brokered peace through public recognition of each warring faction’s contributions.
With my sincerest devotion and respect,
One thought on “Letters to a Young Fundraiser: The Philanthropeon Wars and the Fall of Telethonika”
Pingback: Subvert the Dominant Paradigm of Disability/Charity By Letting Me Match Your Monthly Gift for Those Meddling Advocates at DREDF! | Tales From the Crip